Translated and Edited by: ynlucca.
-san: A polite suffix, but not excessively formal.
-kun: A common suffix among friends and younger people.
-chan: A common suffix among people you’re close with, mostly used for feminine nicknames and girls, since it’s cutesy and childlike.
-senpai: A common suffix and noun used to address or refer to one’s older or more senior colleagues in a school, workplace, dojo, or sports club.
-sensei: A suffix and noun that literally means teacher.
Haah… Haah… Takkun, where are you?
After his mom told me what happened, I scurried around the city late at night looking for him. Mrs. Kaoru told me he hadn’t come home since that day, and that her calls never reached him. No one had any idea where he’s gone.
She knew about the whole incident, as well as Shuri’s slap, so she was reluctant to meet me. Despite that, she had no idea where to look, so she turned to me to help.
And I did, desperately searching every nook, every crevice I could think of. The parks we used to play in, the riverbanks we’d trudge along together, the libraries we always went to… Every place we knew, I searched. As I ran from place to place, happy memories of us played in my mind like a movie, and I had to fight the tears.
This, however, was no time to drown in sorrow. Something bad may be happening to him right this very moment.
Come to think of it…
He talked about a Ryuzaki before, saying they often hung out together in a park right at the border of town… Maybe, just maybe, he might be there. I had no proof or confirmation, just one last straw I could grab onto. So I ran to the place.
…Finally, I found him. Relief washed over me as I called out his nickname. It felt strange otherwise.
“U–um, Takkun, I…”
My calling out was interrupted by a voice coming from the stage. I looked over to see the concept of white in person, walking up the stairs to the bleachers.
“Tatsumi, what are you… Hmm? Who’s that girl?” The white in person took notice.
“…No one, just an acquaintance.”
“Really? It doesn’t look like it.”
“Don’t pry too much, or I’ll deck you.”
With that, he took his eyes off me, handed the half-empty can of coffee to the man, and walked toward the stage. Only the stranger and I remained.
“…What’s up with that guy?”
“Oh? Sorry, I’m a very in-your-face kinda guy, so just don’t worry about it,” he said, taking a sip out of Takkun’s can. “Hmph! Ugh, bitter! Was he drinking this stuff…?”
While the strong flavor of coffee made him scrunch his face, he wasted no time in taking a second sip.
“Hmm, me? I’m Hikaru Ryuzaki. Ah, in case you’re wondering, I’m somewhat of Tatsumi’s guardian now. I guess?”
This guy is that Ryuzaki… But even so, his guardian?
He noticed me deep in thought, then said, “He moved into my house since he couldn’t stay at his place, for various reasons. I’m taking care of him now. Oh, but more importantly, who are you? You’re more than just ‘an acquaintance,’ aren’t you?”
Childhood friend. These words almost left my lips, but couldn’t. Maybe he doesn’t think we’re anything anymore.
“…Classmate. My name is Haruka Sakurai.”
“Ah, so you’re that one.”
“You know me?”
“You’re his childhood friend, aren’t you? I’ve heard a lot about you from Tatsumi… About what happened, too,” he got sterner as he said so. I’m sure Tatsumi is important to this man since both seem to trust each other.
“…Erm, he’s still angry, isn’t he?” I asked, unable to bear his gaze for a second longer.
“Well, I have my own thoughts on the matter. To put it bluntly, he’s pissed off. Though from what I’ve heard, you’re not the only one to blame. Tatsumi gets it, too…”
“But didn’t you know you were the only one?”
I was about to say it wasn’t true, but his eyes were dead-serious and he kept going. “I’ve trained him well. He’s not the kind of guy to be beaten up by bullies… He endured it because of you, right?”
“Because of me…?”
“He was happy as long as you were there for him, even if he was ditched by every other person. That was you, and no one else.”
I couldn’t say a thing as I kept ruminating over his words. I stayed by Takkun’s side because I loved him. The promise we made to each other was something I cherished dearly.
Many people have left him in the past, and I was always there for him. I was basically his emotional anchor, and yet I… I…
“…Bah, don’t worry. I’ll take care of him for a while. He’s got a ton on his mind, so I’m sure he’ll be able to take his mind off things while he fools around,” perhaps noticing my downcast gaze, he softened his voice and spoke some comforting words.
“Yeah, look,” he turned to the stage, where two men lay in front of Takkun battered and bruised.
“Yup, that’s the reaction I expected. Look, I may say a lot of arrogant sh*t, but all I can do is give him a place like this… But it’s better than having nothing at all, right?”
“No place… Is it?”
I looked at the stage once more. The guys were beaten to a pulp, but as soon as they got up, they laughed heartily while patting each other on the back, congratulating the winner for putting up a good fight.
“Hahaha! Can’t yoink a win even with two lads, ay?”
“Nah, you and Yotsuya-san were strong as well, Itsuki-san.”
“Throw them honorifics to the bin! You’re the superior one now!”
“Yeah, you’re Hikaru’s number one disciple after all!”
The three of them laughed as a crowd formed around them. Takkun’s expression was serene.
So this is where he is now…
I squinted my eyes at this blinding sight. He used to stand right next to me, but now he’s so far away…
“…I’m going back,” I said.
This is no place for me. There’s no point in staring in from the outside forever.
“…Want me to send you home?”
“No, I’m good.”
“Mkay, be careful.”
With that, I parted ways and headed for the park’s exit. Meanwhile, Ryuzaki turned toward the stage.
“You guys, we’re wrapping up for today! Whoever can stand up, help up the injured!”
“Yes!” Answered a resounding chorus.
Hearing Ryuzaki’s voice, I turned back to look at them for one last time. He ruffled Takkun’s hair to celebrate his victory, and though he looked a bit annoyed, he wasn’t upset.
Ryuzaki stands where I used to be, and a sharp pain pierced my heart. I couldn’t help but feel hurt at it.
If it’s him, Takkun will be fine… He’s in good hands.
I told myself that. I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself, and even more than that, I don’t deserve to go back to that place.
Forcing my gaze out of them, I ran toward the exit shrouded in the umbra of night. I didn’t look back once.
I fought the tears threatening to fall to the best of my abilities. If they did spill to the floor, I would have to admit my frustration of wanting to return to him, but I couldn’t…
I’m not qualified to take him off of that “light.” (TL: Hikaru means light, so it’s a phrase with two meanings.)
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